Paper mill factory workers.
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10 industries where the smallest businesses pay the highest wages

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February 7, 2024
Mark Agnor // Shutterstock

10 industries where the smallest businesses pay the highest wages

It doesn't take a big company to deliver a big paycheck. While people can command a lot of money at top roles at global businesses that have a household name, smaller companies are often paying non-executives more in certain industries.

The nation's 33.2 million small businesses employ 67.1 million workers, accounting for nearly half (46.4%) of private sector jobs, according to the Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy. From 1995 to 2021, businesses with fewer than 500 workers created 62.7% of new jobs—and those jobs pay competitive wages.

Next Insurance identified industries where small businesses paid the highest wages, using Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The analysis found that small businesses often pay more than their larger counterparts within the same industry for the same or equivalent positions—and not necessarily for jobs in the tech field. And the amounts by which the smaller firms exceed their bigger competitors' pay is not always small: It can amount to hundreds of dollars per week.

This analysis identified the 10 industries where companies with fewer than five employees were the highest-paying. The list was ranked by the pay difference between these small companies and the largest companies within the same industry.

In all cases but one, companies with 1,000 or more employees were the largest size classified by the BLS. The exception was merchant wholesalers of nondurable goods (which include paper, food service products, and other disposable items), for which the largest grouping was 250 to 499 employees based on available data.

Only the 84 industries that had data for companies with fewer than five employees were considered. The industries that the BLS labeled as "unclassified" were excluded, as well as the rail transportation industry due to limited data. Read on to see which types of small companies pay the most.

Woman accepting a delivery of boxes from courier.
1 / 10
comzeal images // Shutterstock

#10. Couriers and messengers

- Average weekly pay at industry's smallest companies: $1,186
--- $8 more than companies with 1,000 employees or more

Rolls of galvanized steel sheet inside a factory.
2 / 10
Vladimir Mulder // Shutterstock

#9. Primary metal manufacturing

- Average weekly pay at industry's smallest companies: $2,234
--- $11 more than companies with 1,000 employees or more

Woman standing at desk giving her card to the receptionist.
3 / 10
Jacob Lund // Shutterstock

#8. Administrative and support services

- Average weekly pay at industry's smallest companies: $1,241
--- $123 more than companies with 1,000 employees or more

An employees speaks on the phone in front of shelves of wine in a wholesale outlet.
4 / 10
Canva

#7. Merchant wholesalers, nondurable goods

- Average weekly pay at industry's smallest companies: $2,123
--- $129 more than companies with 250 to 499 employees

Young nurse talking to senior woman at an assisted living facility.
5 / 10
SeventyFour // Shutterstock

#6. Nursing and residential care facilities

- Average weekly pay at industry's smallest companies: $1,024
--- $173 more than companies with 1,000 employees or more

Rows of paper rolls in a factory.
6 / 10
industryviews // Shutterstock

#5. Paper manufacturing

- Average weekly pay at industry's smallest companies: $2,235
--- $311 more than companies with 1,000 employees or more

Plastic bottle manufacturing process.
7 / 10
Pixel B // Shutterstock

#4. Plastics and rubber products manufacturing

- Average weekly pay at industry's smallest companies: $1,843
--- $346 more than companies with 1,000 employees or more

Storehouse employee in uniform walking in modern automatic warehouse.
8 / 10
alinabuphoto // Shutterstock

#3. Warehousing and storage

- Average weekly pay at industry's smallest companies: $1,412
--- $568 more than companies with 1,000 employees or more

Manufacturing assembly line of microwave ovens.
9 / 10
Andrew Will // Shutterstock

#2. Electrical equipment, appliance, and component manufacturing

- Average weekly pay at industry's smallest companies: $2,174
--- $618 more than companies with 1,000 employees or more

Hospital staff walking in a hallway.
10 / 10
Gorodenkoff // Shutterstock

#1. Hospitals

- Average weekly pay at industry's smallest companies: $2,475
--- $872 more than companies with 1,000 employees or more

Data reporting by Paxtyn Merten. Story editing by Jeff Inglis. Copy editing by Paris Close. Photo selection by Clarese Moller.

This story originally appeared on Next Insurance and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.

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